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Freight study shows 10 lots for Harrington industrial park

Katie Tabeling

The Harrington Freight Study shows expanding rail access along Messicks Road, and subdiving the land into 10 lots, each no more bigger than 25 acres. | PHOTO COURTESY HARRINGTON MULTIMODAL FREIGHT TERMINAL FEASIBILITY STUDY

HARRINGTON —  A long-awaited freight train feasibility study for a future Harrington industrial park shows the best land configuration to meet rising demand for transload terminals to ship commodities across the coast.

A draft of Harrington Multimodal Freight Terminal Feasibility Study prepared by Whitman, Requardt and Associates (WRA) recommends expanding rail access and building a train terminal on a 131-acre site off U.S Route 13 alongside Messicks Road. If the track is laid, it is estimated the site could move more than 200,000 tons of freight per year, with an estimated truck demand between 50 and 130 one-way trips per day.

If the land, which currently has seven undeveloped lots, is fully realized, it could further cement central Delaware as a distribution hub and inspire more local economic development.

“It’s recommended that these parcels with potential for rail be marketed to businesses that need and choose rail service,” WRA Senior Transportation Planner Adrienne Weiss told the Dover/Kent Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)’s technical advisory committee on Tuesday. “The rail siding will control the building location, not vice-versa.”

WRA also recommended subdividing the lot into 10 lots, varying between 5 and 25 acres each, which could allow for up to 750,000 square feet of industrial space. Some companies could construct a rail siding to their facility for direct rail service and a 16-acre terminal will be built on the southeast corner of the lot. If completely built out, the industrial park could employ 500 to 750 people.

The study targets Clukey Drive for the main access point for the industrial site. It is recommended to extend the road and modify the intersection at Route 13 to stop left turns from the road and establish a U-turn median. Secondary access could be established with Route 14.

Total infrastructure improvements are estimated at $20.3 million, with rail improvements and the terminal costing about $15 million. Roadwork and extending sewer and water infrastructure would cost $5.3 million.

The Harrington industrial park has long been a dream for city officials as a way to revitalize the area. But since the land behind the PepsiCo plant would need better road access as well as expanded sewer and water service, Harrington officials worked with the Dover/Kent MPO to master plan the property.

The land is split into three parcels with three owners: the city, O.A. Newton Company President and CEO Rob Rider and James Latham. Both men put in funding for the study as well as additional survey work.

Transload terminals, or a facility where commodities are transferred between train and truck, have grown more popular with distributors and manufacturers in the last four decades. It can be an efficient way to serve customers who are not on a rail line or the volume of business may not be enough to justify the cost of their own sidetrack, according to the study.

Commodities best suited to be freighted out of Harrington include stone and aggregate, construction materials, lumber, agricultural (poultry) products, propane, processed food and more.

A 2010 Delmarva Freight Plan cited in the study reported that 70 million tons valued at $75 billion are freighted to, from and on the Delmarva peninsula. Another 175 million tons are accounted for as pass-through freight.

There is a predicted 70% to 80% increase in annual freight estimates from between 2010 and 2040, according to the study.

“Harrington was built on rail 150 years ago, and it can be a huge component of the shipping again with this project,” Harrington City Planner Karen Brittingham told the Delaware Business Times. “Rail is a huge component of that sector, and there’s not many sites that can offer the ability to get commodities shipped directly to a company if they want. This can be a win-win for Delaware and Harrington.”

To formally move forward with the study’s recommendations, Harrington city officials will have to take the lead and work with county officials to find funding for the $20.3 million in infrastructure improvements. While the Delmarva Central Railroad, which manages 188 miles of rail in the region, is not willing to commit to funding, it may be interested in providing construction services for the project.

But the Harrington industrial park is already getting inquiries from prospective companies on the East Coast, Brittingham said.

“There’s hope with President Biden’s infrastructure bill and the ARPA funds, and we will put in some huge grant requests next,” she told DBT.

The Harrington study will be sent to the Dover/Kent MPO Council for further discussion and recommendation on Sept. 1. The Harrington City Council is set to approve the study by the end of September.

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